In order to commit to a contemplative knitting practice for the long term, before we even start, we need to develop a plan for when we get off track. In the beginning we might feel excited about starting a spiritual discipline that involves knitting and praying but eventually that enthusiasm will wear off. Then we’ll skip a day and then a week and soon we will have stopped all together. What happens next is critical. We must have some plan to get ourselves to restart. This is true with any habit we are trying to develop whether it is exercise or diet or prayer.
Let’s start by examining our motivation to deepen our relationship with God. When you feel the most enthusiastic about starting your practice write down. Why is having a contemplative prayer practice important to you? Keep it as a reminder.
Think about making prayer a part of your identity. This is who you are not just what you do. For example, people who exercise regularly may think of themselves as an athlete not just someone who exercises.
Another way we can use to get ourselves back on track is accountability. We need to be accountable to someone else. You could find one of your knitting friends to be your prayer partner and then decide how you want to communicate with each other. You could decide to send a text once a day after you complete your prayer time. If you stop sending texts, then your prayer partner could follow up with you to see how you’re doing or to find out how to help you restart. Setting up some kind of accountability is a good way to ensure ahead of time that you will remain committed instead of just letting your practice fall by the wayside.
There are many reasons why we abandon a practice. It’s easy to get off track when our normal routine is disrupted. We go on vacation, people come to visit, we get sick or injured, we get bored, we get tired, and on and on.
There is no question that we will stop our contemplative knitting practice. This will happen over and over. We have to be prepared to restart and we need a plan. Find am empathetic partner, buy a skein of luxury yarn and save it to use for the time you need motivation to restart, or join a prayer group and ask them for help.
The most important piece of sustaining a practice is creating one that works well in your life. It doesn’t have to be a long time each day, it just needs to be consistent. It is consistency over time that brings about real change. It’s a consistent diet, consistent exercise, consistent sleep, and consistent prayer that can help us be all who God is calling us to be. The good news is it’s never too late to start again.
Let’s talk a little bit about how to set up a spiritual knitting practice. Preparation is important if we want to create a good practice. Like anything else, we have lay a good foundation, put together the parts that will help us be able to maintain this practice over time. If we don’t have the things that we need then it will be easy for us to skip our prayer time because there is always something pulling us away.
The first step is to find a time to pray. It is best to find a time when you can count on being free every day like first thing in the morning or sometime in the evening. During the day can be difficult since there are always things happening out of our control. It’s important to pick a time you can commit to. Once you figure out a time, then decide how long you will knit and pray. Don’t make it too long. You could start with five minutes a day, or an inch a day or three rows a day but whatever you decide, commit to it. Consistency is important. The objective is to start and sustain a daily prayer practice not to get overwhelmed.
Next step, find a place. Since most days we start and end our day at home, find a quiet spot in your home where you can sit undisturbed. Make sure it is comfortable and warm. Maybe it’s a chair at your kitchen table or an armchair in the living room. It just needs to be a place where you can be alone and have some quiet time. Now that we have a time and a place, what can we knit? What will be our sacred knitting? Remember, this is not about creating a piece of art or figuring out a new knitting technique, it’s about spending time in the presence of God. The actual knitting should be a project that will engage our brains to the degree that it helps silence all of the thoughts running around inside our heads. The kind of thoughts that distract us from prayer.
My last sacred knitting project were these fingerless mitts. I chose them because the cables kept my mind from wondering. I was able to just let myself be aware of knitting in the present moment without thinking about the past or the future. Before I started each prayer time, I would hold the mitts and think about how our hands are the hands of God on earth. How we can use our hands to help others. I gave thanks for all the hands that have helped me over the years.
Find a special project that will draw you in to your prayer time. Keep it separate from the rest of your knitting. When you begin to knit, spend some time becoming grounded by feeling the yarn, holding the needles and asking God to bring you into the present moment and help you let go of all distractions. Then as Anthony Bloom suggests in his book Beginning to pray, sit and knit silently in the face of God.
Hi, I’m Julie Cicora and I’ve been a knitter for over fifty years. After I was ordained to the priesthood, a good friend gave me the book Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. She knew I was relatively new to prayer and that I was struggling to maintain a regular prayer practice. I was delighted to find a story in the book about a woman who complains to the author that she feels an absence in the silence every time she tries to pray. The author invites her to knit in silence before the face of God. The woman takes up her knitting and soon she becomes aware of a presence in the silence. After I read this story, I wondered, “Could knitting be a way into a contemplative prayer practice? “
Knitting for me has always been about love and connection. Every time I sit down with needles and yarn, I remember my grandmother. I would snuggle up against her on the couch and she would put her hands over mine and show me how to knit each stitch. Every time she picked up my dropped stitches, she would hand me back the needles and encourage me to keep at it. “Results will come with time,” she said. Of course, she was right, over time I learned how to knit and the stitches collected on my needles. At first, I knit for myself and then I began to knit for others. I tried to put the love I felt from my grandmother into each hat, mittens, or scarf that I knit. I thought about the women who had knit socks for their loved ones during the wars. How they must have prayed for safety and comfort. Intentionally putting love into each stitch for the recipient is a prayer.
The idea of knitting prayers into shawls started in the late nineties. Prayer shawls were a way to make intercessory prayers visible. Sometimes I would knit a shawl for someone I knew who was suffering. I would pray for healing for that person every time I knit a stitch. Sometimes I would knit a shawl not knowing who would receive it and I prayed for healing for the stranger I hadn’t met. These prayers made me long for a deeper relationship with God. I realized after reading the story of the knitting woman in Anthony Bloom’s book that starting a contemplative knitting practice could be a way to spend time in the presence of God. I decided I would sit and knit in silence. I had tried to have a contemplative prayer practice in the past. This time, I wanted to figure out how I could stick with it once my initial enthusiasm waned. I decided I would be intentional about how to conduct this new spiritual discipline and I began to research both knitting and prayer. I discovered knitting stories about love and connection. I found advice on establishing and sustaining a habit which I used to develop a template for knitters who wanted to deepen their relationship with God and use knitting as the doorway. This is Contemplative knitting.